Getting the Word Out

By Timothy Dyck  |  Posted 2002-08-26 Print this article Print

Getting the Word Out

Notification services can be triggered to send alerts using four input mechanisms (all of which ultimately do the same thing—add rows to Notification Services event table and so trigger it to send an alert). Developers can use its native .Net API, a Component Object Model wrapper for the native API—which will be easier to integrate into Windows code—by loading XML files from the file system through a Transact-SQL stored procedure interface.

In the case of the XML file interface, Notification Services includes a component that can automatically monitor a directory for new files.

In addition to triggered alerts, the software supports scheduled alerts—for example, a message sent to all subscribers at 9 each Monday morning.

Input events go into a database table. We then could set up rules to filter out a subset of these events and generate messages based on this event subset. Notification Services doesnt provide a mechanism to prioritize some events over others—the software uses a first-in, first-out queue—but company officials said a prioritization feature is being considered for a future release.

Messages can be created using XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) scripts or custom-written content formatter methods. Both allow messages to be customized for each recipient. Notification Services allows for conditional formatting to automatically re-format messages for particular device types or to generate the same alert in multiple languages.

Notification Services delivers alerts to subscribers in three ways: as SMTP-based e-mail; as HTTP posts, which would most commonly be used with a telephone companys Web-based Short Message Service interface to send SMS messages to phones; and written to a file on disk. Customers also have the option of writing custom code if they wish to send alerts a different way.

Companies already using Microsofts .Net Alerts service can get a Notification Services plug-in that works with that service, although this is not included with the product.

In 90 to 120 days, Microsoft plans to ship an update to Notification Services that adds the ability to send messages to Microsoft Message Queue queues and send instant messages using Microsoft Exchanges Instant Messaging service. The update will offer packaged integration with SMS aggregators for easier sending of SMS alerts.

West Coast Technical Director Timothy Dyck can be reached at timothy_dyck@

Timothy Dyck is a Senior Analyst with eWEEK Labs. He has been testing and reviewing application server, database and middleware products and technologies for eWEEK since 1996. Prior to joining eWEEK, he worked at the LAN and WAN network operations center for a large telecommunications firm, in operating systems and development tools technical marketing for a large software company and in the IT department at a government agency. He has an honors bachelors degree of mathematics in computer science from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and a masters of arts degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada.

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